Once upon a time, the privileged were lonely.
They were forced to huddle in their 80,000 square foot properties, looking at pictures of each other in Hello!
Now there is a place where they can go and ignore each other in the flesh.
That place is Soho Farmhouse, the not-in-Soho, not-so-country-bumpkin latest addition to Nick Jones’ brace of stylish leisure centres for non-hipsters with a party pulse.
Belonging here is serious business. It’s not uncommon for the Aspirational to kill founder members and wear their skin, in the way Hannibal Lector might if he once worked in media, but now lacked the clout for his application to be seconded by a Lord.
There’s a swell of anticipation on the approach, down roads only visible through Celine prescription sunglasses. Based on the feverish development underway, you glimpse a Soho Gloucestershire on the horizon; one field’s being prepared as an underground propolis city for Cowshed toe cream.
The car park would square up comfortably to a premiership footballer’s front drive, motoring prize poodles lined up cheek-to-jowl sporting ‘my other car’s a helicopter’ stickers. You’re not sure where best to slip in: apparently, a Maserati drops £20k in value every time a Honda stops alongside.
Ah, but when your feet first connect with that socially-rich soil, can it matter how you got there? If there’s no-one from security chasing you down at 5 mph in a sleek buggy, then you’re IN.
It feels rather special to gain access to a member’s-only fiefdom in a county where ordinary people get electrocuted for using the wrong paint colour- like being rubbed all over with insulating smug butter.
The mix of exclusivity with wholesome fresh air is so destabilising, for a moment you fear you might forget to ‘check in’ on your iPhone.
Regardless, it’s important to betray no elation while gliding around these grounds; smiling here indicates you are having a nervous breakdown and heading straight back to The Priory after your weekend release. Or, worse, that you are very, very grateful to have a friend to bring you along.
I stand on the path and drink it all in, feeling very, very grateful.
It’s a phenomenon less country club, more urbal settlement (that’s an odious little truncation of urban and rural).
There are wooden cabins and outhouses and gyms dotted all around, like a 3-D avatar village for aesthetes who eat artisan tempeh and remember Playschool.
There’s a small lake with boats and steam rising from a cool, heated outdoor pool; bicycles to borrow while the Bentley rests; outdoor sofas with cushions in faultlessly-nice colours; log pits burning; table tennis tables; snooker.
You can go ice-skating or film-watching or people spying and unless you pass a mirror you could up-end every nook and cranny, and you wouldn’t see one solitary unbeautiful object.
God week-ends here, occasionally riding around in an SF vintage-style trap pulled by one of the horses, trying to look like a feature film director.
And entertainment’s not the end of it.
There are stores that offer an opportunity to replicate this perfection at home- delicacies, and dinner jackets, and Elephant’s Breath plants.
Everywhere you look- every turn of the maze you take- tastefully-displayed premium quality wonder goods are available for purchase. The entire premises is, in fact, 100% bullet-proofed against naffness. (Note: Farmhousers don’t find naffness funny; they let their nephew get on with that in Dalston.)
Inside the main food hall, the honey-hued hum of success emits.
Whether gained through fame, hard graft, good looks, or good luck, money is talking.
These are people who live life in capital letters. Their hair is Hair. Their coat is a Coat.
They look at you a fraction too long, in order to conduct on your body a Terminator scan of social relevance.
When they see that not only are you not Amal Clooney, but you’re also not Kelly Hoppen, you have to absorb the disappointed-dismissive balancing essential oil mix that’s sweating from their newly-massaged bodies.
The food is amazing. The service is amazing. Everyone’s shoes are amazing.
There’s a woman with fluorescent teeth playing boules and a comedian having lunch as if he’s just a regular guy who needs to eat. Children in cashmere wellingtons are being chased around the courtyard by Cara Delevigne wearing a Scooby Doo onesie. What, will Angelina’s lips soon be booking themselves into the cinema room with copper mugs of Moscow Mule?
Where are all the real people? your head spins. ‘Take me back to Kansas.’
Then a teenaged member of staff with spots and a local accent asks if you left your antibiotics in the bathroom and- crypes- it’s really happening, after all.
Like squeezy honey or penicillin, Soho Farmhouse is so necessary you wonder why it hasn’t been invented before.
The answer may lie in the Soho Empire expansion strategy, which mirrors the life stages of an adman: Central London in his heyday (chop ’em up); stints in the States (can I powder prescriptions drugs?); wife and kids in Chiswick, with weekends at Bab house (did you bring the viagra?) whoah, still got it! in Shoreditch (mdma bombs): enjoying his career spoils in the countryside (how could you even suggest it? Oh go on then, rack me up a Cheeky); keeping it real/ feeling a bit shot, tbh, in the Bush (weak tea, 2 Candarels).
Soho Beachhut’s planned in for Bournemouth 2030: ermine-trimmed zimmers and a Soho Font ‘Bowling Alley’ sign re-housed from another location, with the ‘alley’ blacked out.
I wallow in the glow. I never want to leave. Life at Soho Farmhouse is too damn good.
But I falter. Do I belong? With my fake Hermes bag, and unmanicured nails, and my hair that is just hair.
Then it dawns on me. If there’s one thing that fabulous needs more than fabulous, it’s an audience.
So I complete this daydream on a gorgeous sofa in front of the fire with my own (more quietly) fabulous friends.
Drinking jasmine tea, and wondering whose skin would fit me best.